Lately it seems like Nobili Hall is bursting at the seams with novices. This academic quarter, there are two novices in residence here - myself and Jason Beyer, a second-year novice from the California Province who is on Long Experiment working in campus ministry and teaching at Santa Clara. In addition, however, we've had a lot of novice guests in the last few days. For starters, the Cal Prov primi
are staying at Nobili while they visit various Jesuit apostolates across the Bay Area. Two Oregon Province
primi and one of Jason's fellow Cal Prov secundi have also stopped in. Last but not least, my classmate Adam DeLeon came down from San Francisco for a visit. I ran the numbers yesterday with Oregon novice Matt Zahler and we figured out that on that day there were twelve novices at Nobili - more than some novitiates, actually. Within a few days, however, this highly anomalous state of affairs will have ended and Jason and I will go back to being the only novices in what speakers of Jesuitese sometimes call "a professed house."
As noted above, my brother novice Adam was in town this weekend. He wanted to see some of the local Jesuit apostolates, so I showed him the Santa Clara campus and took him down to the California Province
offices and infirmary in Los Gatos and to Bellarmine College Prep
in San Jose. The former Cal Prov novitiate at Los Gatos is legendary as the place where Novitiate Wine was produced for nearly a hundred years (novices picked the grapes, and Jesuit brothers directed the winery). Resurrecting an old tradition, Novitiate Wine is once again available
from a company called Testarossa Vineyards, though the Society's involvement in the enterprise is limited to leasing the old winery to Testarossa and letting them use the Novitiate label. In company with many other erstwhile formation houses, the former novitiate at Los Gatos now serves as an assisted living and nursing care center for senior Jesuits. Many Jesuits now spend their last years in the same places in which they entered the Society and received their initial formation, and that fact carries a striking poignancy.
This afternoon, Adam and I took a good look at Bellarmine College Prep. I had been to BCP before for dinner with the Jesuit community, but on that visit I didn't have a chance to explore the campus or learn much about the school. Today I got to know BCP a lot better, thanks in large part to the generosity of Father Dick Cobb, who showed Adam and me around and told us a lot about the school and its students. The sprawling, college-like campus, rigorous curriculum and diverse student body all left me with a very positive impression of the school. Rounding out a great experience, I again enjoyed dinner with the community in the evening and had the good fortune to attend an evening liturgy in the school chapel where fifty BCP students received the sacrament of confirmation. In summation, Bellarmine College Prep rocks.
You know who else rocks? Bishop Patrick McGrath
and the Diocese of San Jose
. In the short time I’ve been here, I’ve become a big fan of this diocese and its bishop. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a local church as dynamic and vibrant as this one. This is a diocese with an approach that makes Catholicism attractive, a place where it’s exciting to be Catholic. That’s something I cannot say about a lot of the other places I’ve lived; having spent a fair amount of time in dioceses that were a lot less healthy than this one, I really appreciate what I’ve found here. Part of what makes this diocese work so well is that it has a fine bishop in Patrick McGrath. I’ve now heard Bishop McGrath preach twice, the first time being at a jubilee Mass a few weeks ago and the second being at tonight’s confirmation Mass. Both times, I was deeply impressed by the Bishop’s gentle presence, conversational tone and consoling message. I can't point to any one particular thing that the Bishop said or did on either occasion that cemented this impression, but instead it was the overall effect of hearing him preach that made me into a fan. Meeting Bishop McGrath in person tonight and speaking with him before and during dinner confirmed my sense that he is both an outstanding shepherd and an all-around great guy. I could say similar things – in fact, I think I already have multiple times – about San Jose itself. It’s a great diocese to serve in, and an all-around great place to be. AMDG.